A victory in the Intertribal Court of Southern California
In a decision issued on February 2, 2012, the Intertribal Court of Southern California ruled in favor of the Los Coyotes Tribe in an eviction proceeding against the Eagle Rock Training Center (ERTC) regarding a disputed lease under which ERTC claimed to control a substantial portion of the Tribe’s Warner Springs Reservation. The Reservation, which covers 25,000 acres, is the largest in San Diego County and ERTC claimed permission to use a portion of it for artillary practice, weapons discharge, and military training, all of which inflicted a toll on tribal cultural sites, road access, grading of land, and created the potential for fire danger. The tribe’s General Council disputed the nature and extent of the use, and took issue with ERTC refusing to obtain tribal permits. In June 2011 Los Coyotes voted to exclude ERTC from the Reservation, and issued a Notice to Vacate. Again in September 2011, when ERTC had not vacated the Tribe served a notice of violation of Tribal laws, including environmental non-compliance, law and order violations, grading violations, and not allowing Tribal members access to their own Reservation. Since the alleged lease was never submitted or approved by the BIA, and was not voted on by the General Council, the Tribe also took issue with any occupancy of its Indian lands based on an invalid lease. California Indian Legal Services’ Mark Radoff represented the Tribe, in the eviction case, and is also representing the Tribe in an ongoing Federal Court case where ERTC is trying to enjoin the Tribe from enforcing its laws. That court’s preliminary ruling was that the “alleged” lease did not have a valid waiver of the the Tribe’s sovereign immunity, and was therefore unenforceable. A motion to dismiss the Federal lawsuit is currently pending. The tribal court decision is great victory for tribal sovereignty.